Invent the Future
Invent the Future is a summer enrichment program dedicated to bringing AI expertise, community, and mentorship to Grade 9-12 young women and non-binary youth. The program started as a partnership with AI4ALL, a non-profit working to increase diversity and inclusion in the field of AI. Simon Fraser University (SFU) was one of six universities participating in AI4ALL’s official rollout in 2018 and was the only participating university in Canada. Stanford University, Princeton University, University of California, Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon University, and Boston University are among the fifteen US schools that partnered with AI4ALL. As of 2023, Invent the Future has served a total of 138 students and transitioned to an independent program run by the Faculty of Applied Sciences (FAS) at SFU. In addition to AI4ALL, the program has received support from esteemed organizations such as Actua and CIFAR.
In 2024, we are excited to introduce a version of the program that is tailored to a younger audience, specifically Grade 7-9 students. This in-person, week-long version of the program aims to empower students with foundational AI and machine learning knowledge, facilitate meaningful discussions on the social implications of AI and address algorithmic bias, and engage students in hands-on coding activities, which include the development of an image feature extractor application. On the final day of the program, students will present their work to their peers, program instructors, and family members, and celebrate their accomplishments.
Our decision to extend the Invent the Future program to Grade 7-9 students is underpinned by the increased integration of AI into everyday life, coupled with limited educational opportunities for upper elementary to middle school students in this domain. Furthermore, in response to the prevalence of gender disparity in the technology and AI sectors, as highlighted by a 2019 UNESCO report which revealed that women constitute only 12% of AI researchers and 6% of software developers globally (West et al., 2019)1, one out of the two weeks of program offerings will be dedicated exclusively to Grade 7-9 young women and non-binary youth.
1West, M., Kraut, R., & Ei Chew, H. (2019). I’d blush if I could: closing gender divides in digital skills through education. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000367416.page=1
“AI is about to make the biggest changes to humanity, and we’re missing a whole generation of diverse technologists and leaders.”
- Fei-fei Li, Co-founder of AI4ALL
"Being in the program exposed me to so many possibilities within the field of AI and computer science and allowed me to realize my own potential. I really enjoyed meeting some of the inspirational women in computer science and connecting with like-minded people my age! My interests in the advancing world of technology have since grown exponentially, and I have also been opened up to new opportunities, thanks to the program."
-Taylor W., Invent the Future Alumna
Photos: Simon Fraser University 2018